Cover Image

PAPERBACK
$47.25



View/Hide Left Panel

INTERNET USE BY NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS: TENDENCIES AND PROSPECTS

L.A.Kokhanova

Moscow State University

A new stage of activity of nongovernmental organizations has appeared. It is characterized by use of the Internet. Public movements cannot do without the Global Network. The Internet forms its own virtual environment where people look for new forms of communication.

The goal of the research carried out at the Faculty of Journalism of Moscow State University is to trace interrelations between the nongovernmental sector and new communication technologies and to discover characteristics and differences of the new electronic information environment in comparison with the conventional one. Other tasks are data collection and analysis of current newspapers, digests, and bulletins—issued by NGOs and aimed at other NGOs.

COMPONENTS OF SUCCESS

Since the UN Conference on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), NGOs have had key positions in establishing democratic structures with public participation for sustainable development and conservation of the Earth’s ecosystem. Their high prestige results from their responsible and constructive role in society. Both official and informal organizations, as well as local movements, are recognized as valuable partners in realization of Agenda 21.

Nowadays, as the world community tries to walk away from impractical development patterns and chooses the way of ecological security and sustainable development, NGOs have the task to increase the membership of their structures for recognition of common goals by people in all layers of society.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 59
The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop INTERNET USE BY NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS: TENDENCIES AND PROSPECTS L.A.Kokhanova Moscow State University A new stage of activity of nongovernmental organizations has appeared. It is characterized by use of the Internet. Public movements cannot do without the Global Network. The Internet forms its own virtual environment where people look for new forms of communication. The goal of the research carried out at the Faculty of Journalism of Moscow State University is to trace interrelations between the nongovernmental sector and new communication technologies and to discover characteristics and differences of the new electronic information environment in comparison with the conventional one. Other tasks are data collection and analysis of current newspapers, digests, and bulletins—issued by NGOs and aimed at other NGOs. COMPONENTS OF SUCCESS Since the UN Conference on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), NGOs have had key positions in establishing democratic structures with public participation for sustainable development and conservation of the Earth’s ecosystem. Their high prestige results from their responsible and constructive role in society. Both official and informal organizations, as well as local movements, are recognized as valuable partners in realization of Agenda 21. Nowadays, as the world community tries to walk away from impractical development patterns and chooses the way of ecological security and sustainable development, NGOs have the task to increase the membership of their structures for recognition of common goals by people in all layers of society.

OCR for page 59
The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop NGOs cannot realize their opportunities without modern information technologies. Electronic media, particularly the Internet, play a significant role in data expansion, the search for partners, and creation of positive images of these organizations. The Internet is a powerful channel to solve difficult problems, including: Increasing professional competence Participation in decision-making Access to data Broadening scientific opportunities during assessments of ecological and economic aspects of specific problems In spite of its novelty, the Internet in Russia gives the following opportunities for Russian NGOs: Increasing data receipt and access to data for NGOs Distributing information on NGOs and NGO projects Organizing integrated information databases The main problem now is providing easier access to the network by both electronic users and by creators of their own sites. ACCESS TO THE INTERNET The necessity of new information technology is now evident all over the world. Every day the news industry uses Internet pages with more confidence. For a long time, leading western newspapers and magazines have been creating electronic versions. Many American and European radio stations broadcast not only at conventional radio frequencies but on-line also. Every fifth inhabitant of the planet could have access to the resources concentrated in the global computer networks, including Russian ecological databases. The Internet is gradually turning into a global version of mass media. As to Russian experience, a new tendency from conventional forms of data to new progressive techniques is taking place, similar to developments in the West. Nevertheless, many Russian researchers consider the Internet not as an independent means of information, but as a channel for conventional mass media. Many Russian papers and magazines have their own sites in the computer network. On the one hand, Internet-journalism leaps forward, and, on the other hand, different political parties with certain ecological agendas as well as other organizations use the network space successfully. At numerous sites of leading Russian political parties—Union of Right Forces, Yabloko, Fatherland All

OCR for page 59
The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop Russia, KEDR—one can find answers to many questions, such as appropriate use of natural resources, support of ecological principles, and effectiveness of environmental education. Such sites increased during the last election for the State Duma when people realized the possibilities of the new technologies reaching large audiences. Russian statistics recorded approximately 350,000 computer units with unique identification numbers that were connected with political informational sites each week. According to Novaya Gazeta (May 17–23, 1999), the section Politics was in fourth place for average daily entries with more than 300,000 hits. The first place always belongs to the section Entertainment, the second one to the section Business, and the third one to Mass Media. If we unite the thematically similar sections Politics and Mass Media, we have approximately 800,000 hits. This number corresponds to the level of Entertainment. The number of Russian-language users interested in ecology is nearly equal to that of Business. There is an opportunity for NGOs to use the Internet seriously in order to accomplish their tasks. It became possible just recently when many public movements were supported by western funds. As a rule, grants were given for specific projects to certain ecological groups. One of the priorities was purchase of computing equipment for scientific research, databases, newspaper or bulletin publishing, and opening of individual sites. That is why, nowadays, NGOs have rather good opportunities for network access and use. INTERNET-JOURNALISM Public organizations and movements began to develop the new information field as users of mass media sites present on the Russian Internet. Moreover, active members of these movements became authors. They expected that a lack of publicity in the society would be one of the most serious problems of the green movement. Publicity can result not only from successful actions but also from their frequent mention in the press. The Internet gave ecologists a real chance to come into contact with an audience as often as necessary. For this purpose, they use the entire media spectrum offered by the Internet. It includes electronic versions of publications, network news agencies, and bulletins. Of course, electronic versions are used by the general press as well as the ecological news. In order to bolster their image, NGOs can send information on themselves to any periodical. But experience shows that their own green press is preferable. An analysis of electronic issues of Zelyony Mir (Green World) proves this. The Russian ecological paper offers internet sections like Eco-press, Eco-globe, ZM Mailbag, and others.

OCR for page 59
The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop This paper is also true to its credo that “pages of the paper are open to nongovernmental, state, and industrial organizations and private persons who are active participants of the Russian ecological movement.” Front page information about the Azov-Black Sea region and opposition against an oil port that threatens preserves of the Black Sea coast illustrates this. The positive aspects of ecological journalism on the Internet are the following: There is the possibility of watching ecological topics in progress. As an example, Ecoline deals with the Lagonaki-Dagomys road through the Caucasus State Biosphere Reserve. One can find documents, photos, maps, and a list of broken laws. The actions concerning the project are illustrated in detail at the page “Doroga Lagonaki-Dagomys” (Lagonaki-Dagomys Road) at www.ecolain.ru. An electronic newspaper has no volume limits. That is why a problem can be covered completely with many facts necessary for understanding the problem. Professionals prepare these publications. According to survey data, representatives of ecological organizations and nongovernmental funds, i.e. journalists-ecologists, prepare them. They are not looking for sensations. They try to show ecological improvement because that is their little victory too. Accuracy of the information is important. Journalists and members of ecological organizations know how to find necessary sources of data. Even if a source of information gives incorrect data, an experienced journalist-ecologist will not be misled. A regional approach is emphasized. Electronic communication facilities give an advantage to the local press in coverage for a mass audience. Public organizations work better at the regional level. They are well informed about ecological problems of the region, they establish relations with local authorities, and they can watch the problems with their own eyes. Hence, journalists-ecologists of the regional press have easier access to local information. This has resulted in an abundance of regional ecological papers, such as Tabiat (Tajikistan), Ekovesti iz Luganska (Econews from Lugansk), Most-Silta (the Northwestern region), and others. There is a wide audience. A mass audience benefits from many regional organs in the network because they help to form a complete ecological picture. Accessibility is easy. Subscription to the electronic media is usually free. In order to subscribe one can send a letter to a subscription address. If you subscribe, you will receive informational messages from several paragraphs to dozens of pages, with various frequency from less than a week to a month. There is a possibility to vary the information volume. Sometimes only a part of a bulletin may be of interest. This problem can be solved by means of e-mail. Due to a special procedure, every subscriber can receive only a brief

OCR for page 59
The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop annotation of an issue and then has an opportunity to receive the full report of interest. The service is named “What is new?” Databases are preserved. Almost all periodicals provide archives. You can look through any interesting issue of any year since the beginning of publication. There are different ways of reading the text—an electronic version and hard copy. Also, one can obtain an electronic newspaper in a printed form, as it is not difficult to print the text from a monitor. So, as active Internet users, NGOs in many respects stimulated Internet-Journalism. They evaluated the advantages of electronic mass media. That is why many periodicals are located at NGO servers. SERVERS OF PUBLIC ORGANIZATIONS At present Internet servers of NGOs are the main ecological information carriers in Russia. Hence, the experience of the Socio-Ecological Union (SEU), the largest public ecological organization within the former USSR, is interesting. Public nonprofit organizations usually have difficulties in establishing continuous connections with the mass media, so this might be the most important task of a press service. For easier access of journalists to data obtained by NGOs, their press services publish bulletins and press releases. The SEU was the first with its own server on the Internet network: “Internet for ecological movement, www:server Ecoline.” In 1996 it began providing information about the public ecological movement. All the time, information at the server is routinely increased. Ecoline aims to make the server as a specific “open tribune” of the nature protection movement by allowing various ecological organizations to put their information there. A number of public organizations opened their pages on the server. Their task is to help each other work better in the present situation. Opening of the server appeared to be the next stage in development of this NGO that made ecological data available to the general public and also provided a good image both for itself and nature protection. Since 1993, the press service based at the Center of Coordination and Information of SEU has dealt with information campaigns and press conferences—essential information for the Russian mass media. Present tasks of the press service are the following: Providing information about the activity of SEU and improving the SEU image as an active public organization protecting human and nature rights. Assistance in increasing ecologically competent publications in the mass media.

OCR for page 59
The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop Assistance in training journalists in problems of protection of the environment and public health. About once a month the press service organizes press conferences devoted to ecological problems, such as deforestation in Karelia, construction of new nuclear reactors in the country, and budgets for preserves. Press releases and press packages are prepared before the press conferences. Press service tasks are much wider than only collaboration with mass media. It is a department of public relations. Journalists know it as an original source of fast, reliable, and interesting ecological information, while many members of SEU and other public organizations appreciate the opportunity to publish local ecologically essential information. Journalists who used to consider any NGO representative as incompetent in journalism now regard the press service workers as their colleagues, not rivals. Experts and scientists, who expect journalists to always distort data, unhesitatingly permit the press service to process and prepare results of their research for publishing. Since January 1997 the SEU’s CCI press service has issued the weekly bulletin Ekosvodka, intended primarily for journalists. Its electronic addresses are seupress@glasnet.ru and press@ecoline.ru. Bulletin materials give popular information about the most significant ecological problems known to SEU members and to other ecological NGOs. The bulletin announces actions, press conferences, and other events of interest to journalists. Ekosvodka is interesting to journalists and is routinely used by approximately fifty Russian central and foreign periodicals. Ekosvodka is more of an instrument of SEU than an independent source. Every item is supplied with a contact person for additional information, such as Ecological Watch of Sakhalin, Ecojuris institute, and the ecological fund Chernomorye. SEU also issues Ekosvodka-obozrenie (Ekosvodka-Review). Unlike the weekly Ekosvodka, this bulletin is issued bimonthly as a record of actions. One can get additional information according to the problem. Besides Ekosvodka and Ekosvodka-obozrenie, SEU publishes an ecological electronic newspaper. It differs from the bulletins mainly as being more analytical than news. The newspaper’s goal is to create interest of a wide audience. REGIONAL ECOLOGICAL ELECTRONIC BULLETINS Review of Internet-materials shows that regional NGOs can use the ecological press to reach a wider audience than earlier when they had only printed media. As a rule, electronic bulletins are devoted to the problems of a certain region. For example, Transboundary Ecological News deals with problems of the Northwestern region (information from vika@lake-peipus.net),

OCR for page 59
The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop Ecostan-news (information from catena@glasnet.ru) informs about events in Central Asia, and Kislotny Dozhd (Acid Rain) root@green.lipetsk.su publishes materials about ecological problems of Lipetsk. These bulletins are free. It is possible to subscribe to open networks. The participants can distribute their messages to each other by means of the network. An example of an active network is Ecological North West Line (ENWL), redproj@sci.mail.iephb.ru. An advantage of such networks is that an addressee receives not only the information itself, but almost immediately responses of other members and sometimes experts. So, there is an opportunity to find a mistake or gather more data. ENWL, which has two mailing lists, ENWL and ENWL-inf, was organized in 1997. The first list is for message exchange on regional problems. Debates are permitted. At present the list contains 120 addresses of different ecological organizations mainly from the northwest of Russia and the Baltic States: Estonia, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark. Important messages pass through the network on http://spb.org.ru/enwl. The second teleconference, ENWL-inf, deals with information messages and short digests only. At the same time it is not limited to regional themes, so it unites 250 subscribers all over the world. Most network periodicals of the former Soviet states are routinely distributed by this mailing list. Both lists publish short reports, conference announcements, and scientific and ecological news. They often distribute information received from international ecological servers. Besides these mailing lists, the ecological network of northwest Russia has EcoNews at http://solar.rtd.utk.edu/~valery/econews/econews.html. It publishes thematic reports on key problems of ecology. Russian and English are official languages of both. In November 1998, every ENWL subscriber received more than 1300 KB of information in text format, while ENWL-inf subscribers received more than 900 KB. ENWL subscription is free. Send your address to majordomo@spb.org.ru in order to subscribe for ENWL or ENWL-inf. The total number of subscribers for all the above lists is about 750. One can obtain detailed information from the network moderator Vladimir Levchenko: vflew@lew.spb.org (http://www.iephb.ru/labs/lab38/). A year was enough for a rather significant ecological network of northwest Russia to appear. There is a great interest in ecological problems of the northwest region. One more project of interest is Most-Silta, a newspaper also devoted to the problems of the northwest region. The server spb.org.ru contains three electronic papers: Green World Baltic News, Baltic Region—Our Habitat (analytical bulletin), and Most-Silta, the only Russian-language paper. It is the result of collaboration of two Finnish and two Russian public ecological organizations. The project began in St. Petersburg at a Russia-Finland forum “Our Common Environment.”

OCR for page 59
The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop The newspaper is aimed at cooperation between Russian and Finnish ecological public organizations. It is to become a permanent discussion forum concerning the environment and nature protection. The first issue is devoted to a review of the present state of northwest Russian and Finnish ecological movements. The newspaper publishes opinions of representatives of the state nature protection departments and public organizations. Community participation in decision-making is also discussed. Cooperation between public organizations and authorities in Finland has been in place for decades, while in Russia this cooperation has taken its first steps. Interviews have an important place in the newspaper. Although they are rare in electronic periodicals, Most-Silta routinely publishes interviews on the first page, introducing representatives of northwest Russian ecological organizations. Let us examine an interview of V.A.Gushchin, a representative of the All-Russian Society of Nature Protection. He talks about a bloc of organizations engaged in wildlife protection and environmental training and education on the base of this old organization. The interview of E.B.Popov, a leader of the public association Biocenter, is a continuation of the previous article. He speaks not only about his organization, which was established in 1991, but also about the newspaper Yuny Biolog (Young Biologist) and the annual Ecological Holiday in Moscow’s Park of Victory. The Association of Young Journalists-Ecologists attached to Biocenter is of special interest. Other items of the newspaper are interesting too, especially those informing about public organizations of the region. For example, Green Cross of the Northwest, established in 1993, unites more than 70 collective members such as industrial factories, firms, scientific groups, and public organizations. In Murmansk Oblast, one can now find about 50 registered organizations connected with nature protection. To some extent, publication of this newspaper stimulated new sites of public organizations. The Kola Informational Ecological Center ECONORD (econord@ksc.inep.ru.) is among them. It is one of the first ecological organizations, formed in 1991 by a group of scientists from the Institute of Problems of Industrial Ecology of the North of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The Center’s main task is informational and educational activity. Since its foundation, more than 10 issues of a magazine have been published, and annual youth ecological camps and scientific conferences have been organized. The youth scientific ecological society EcoAS within ECONORD gives pupils an opportunity to carry out scientific projects under the leadership of scientists from the Kola Scientific Center. This site also informs about the main activities and active projects of the coordinating ecological center Geya, which has been operating since 1991. To

OCR for page 59
The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop contact another ecological movement in Murmansk Oblast is also possible by the addresses gaia@mstu.edu.ru in Murmask and krugl@aprec.ru in Apatity. Geya publishes the almanac Zhivaya Arktika (Living Arctic). It gives information about the Karelia Republic Council of the All-Russian Society for Nature Protection, which is celebrating its fortieth anniversary, and about propagation of Agenda 21 ideas among different groups. It is interesting to know about the Green Association of Karelia, which established the first national parks of Karelia Vodlozero and Paanjärvi. One can also be acquainted with the association Priroda (Nature) in Medvezhegorsk, which protects the beautiful place Zaonezhye, known all over the world with its pearl, Kizhi. The regional eco-bulletin Dikoye Polye (Wild Field) is devoted to ecological news of the Donbass. It is distributed by the ecological and cultural center Bakhmat at: berezin@bahmat.donetsk.ua. The two last letters of the address show that it is in Ukraine. The bulletin Kislotny Dozhd (root@green.lipetsk.ru) is a sort of “branch establishment” of the Lipetsk department of SEU. Thus, it publishes materials on environmental problems of Lipetsk. Journalists have enough information because the Lipetsk ecological committee’s activity is highly rated. The Lipetsk department of SEU belongs to the top five Russian ecological committees. Lipetsk itself may be characterized as “the cleanest city among the dirtiest ones.” This city takes sixth place according to its air pollution, twenty-fifth place according to general pollution, and thirtieth place according to degree of hazardous pollutants. Due to efforts of professional ecologists, Lipetsk is known as the cleanest of the metallurgical cities. The bulletin deals with ecological education and the pluses and minuses of gold mining in the region. A little item from one of the issues tells about car owners who used to drive from their garages through connecting courtyards of apartment houses right by a kindergarten. This simple item illustrates a state of ecological thinking of ordinary people that is very difficult to change. The author introduces a real person into the text, and it shows that one ought to think globally while acting locally. The news agency Kislotny Dozhd, which exists along with the bulletin, offers short informational reports. For example, ecologists are outraged with the cutting of supposedly harmful poplars, in the center of Lipetsk. Poplar was once selected as the most resistant tree against pollution with increased foliage coverage and ability of air purification. In spite of this, its total destruction is taking place. Both the Bulletin and the news agency Kislotny Dozhd publish information on the activity of the local club Ekolog (Ecologist). Due to new information technologies, ecological problems are discussed without boundaries. The Internet now keeps a united information field of the former USSR. One example is the bulletin Zelyonoye Spaseniye (“Green Rescue”) (mailserv@cci.glasnet.ru), which has appeared since 1995 registered

OCR for page 59
The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop in Kazakhstan. One of its issues, for example, is devoted to sustainable development after the UN Conference on Environment and Development. It includes materials concerning resource status, economies based on raw material resources, role of transnational corporations, their influence on different aspects of social development, and a search for indicators of sustainable development. The bulletin is meant for professors and students of the humanities, active green workers, and people engaged in sustainable development. As far as one can see, electronic bulletins play an intermediate role in NGO activity. They promote people’s knowledge on sustainable development, and they disseminate information about NGOs. SERVERS OF STATE STRUCTURES NGOs consolidate their positions on the Internet by opening their own servers. They display legislation texts and other governmental information. For example, every Internet user can obtain minutes of U.S. Congressional sessions for recent years. The U.S. EPA server www.epa.gov is also informative. Recently Russian state bodies began to pay attention to placing their information on the Internet. The server of Goskomekologia (the State Committee on Environmental Protection) (www.fcgs.rssi.ru), for example, contains electronic versions of the Report of Environmental Status from 1992 to 1994. Servers of regional state bodies appear to be more interesting such as the one of Komprirody (Nature Committee) of Tomsk, with a review of the environment status of Tomsk Oblast (green.tsu.ru). The server of the authorities of St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast, base.dux.ru, contains a review of environmental status and legislation of the region. The interdepartmental server www.priroda.ru has been opened by the Ministry of Natural Resources with assistance of other departments. Its goal is to support the State’s activity in coordination of natural resource management. Official reports on environmental status and certain types of pollution located on the server are very useful for NGOs. Recently these reports have been difficult to access due to limited editions. Now they are accessible to a greater number of readers on the Internet server. They are important for the official positions on different problems concerning environmental protection. One can find reports of the national news agency Nature Resources at www.priroda.ru/index.html. The tasks of the agency are the following: Informational and analytical support of the state structures in natural resources management. On-line distribution of management information and normative documents of natural resource departments.

OCR for page 59
The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop Establishment of an interdepartmental system of information exchange of the natural resource departments. Distribution of periodicals for natural resource departments. Interconnection of mass media with press services of governmental bodies. Informational and publishing support of federal executive authorities. Introduction of modern means of collection, storage, analysis, processing and distribution of information on problems of natural resources and development of data bases. Complex analysis of natural resource information. Preparation of analytical reports and references. Short information reports of the agency reflect the state interests, first of all. This is very important for NGOs, which often have no guidance for their activity and have difficulty in choosing priorities. For example, the item “Days of Protection of the Amur-2000” appeared on the routinely updated server. Ecological action on protection of the river was announced by the Far East Public Nature Protection Committee, established nine years ago. It includes ecologists, physicians, lawyers, and representatives of local authorities of Primorye and Khabarovsk territories, Chita Oblast, and the Jewish Autonomous Region. The goal of the action is to attract attention of Chinese authorities to the problem of preservation of the great river. The second item of the same issue is entitled “Contaminated Waters Reach Ukraine.” In Romania, waters poisoned with cyanide entered the Danube, and the level of river water contamination in Ukraine increased also. Similar to the previous report, this an international problem which can be solved only by united efforts both of governments and NGOs of these countries. Public activity should force the state structures to pay more attention to their image as well as organization of their own news departments. At the first All-Russian conference “Information Dissemination of Nature Protection Activity in the Russian Federation” (November 1997), with participation of representatives of nature protection bodies of 29 administrative units, a decision was made about a fundamentally new approach to information. For the first time, a serious analysis of the legislation base and state information systems was carried out at the conference. Participants of the conference, including numerous members of public movements, analyzed information support of nature protection activity and determined its priorities. The conference discussed “Main Statements of a National Strategy of Development of Information Support for Nature Protection Activity.” This formed a basis for improvement of the work and development of programs in this sphere. A permanent topic at the interdepartmental server was the discussion of ways of improvement of information support for state and industrial monitoring.

OCR for page 59
The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop This information is very important to NGOs, and they use it in their routine practice. The main achievement is the establishment of both interdepartmental servers and those of NGOs. So, a user has an opportunity to compare information. Then we can make more deliberate choices to support nature preservation. ECOLOGICAL ELECTRONIC BULLETINS Electronic mass media analysis shows that only a few organizations can afford to design and support then own servers. In order to make access to information obtained by NGOs easier for journalists, press services of the organizations publish bulletins and press releases and distribute them by electronic mail. For example, SEU sponsors development of e-mail networks among participants of ecological movements. The greater part of nongovernmental ecological associations publish bulletins and distribute them by e-mail. The advantages of e-mail are evident. They include free subscription, high information rate, and as a result, wider audience coverage. Electronic mail now is comfortable, relatively cheap, and quick. Many ecological organizations all over the world use it. Many different electronic bulletins are published by ecological organizations, for example, Anti-atom Press (Anti-nuclear campaign of SEU), Problems of Chemical Security (Movement For Chemical Security of SEU), Kislotny Dozhd and Lesnye Novosti (Forest News and Forest Clubs) E-mail is used in large educational projects with many participants in different towns of the country. Program ICLEI, aimed at the improvement of city environmental management, is an example of such a project. It is appreciated by its participants who are representatives of nongovernmental ecological organizations in Russia and Ukraine. The ecological press can be divided as follows: According to coverage: regional (territorial, regional, district) and interregional. According to information content: thematic (concerning only one or a few ecological problems, such as biological diversity, chemical security) and general (dealing with all branches of ecology). According to informational difficulty: popular and specialized, aimed for experts in a certain branch. According to kind of publisher: political parties, governmental structures, international ecological organizations and funds, public ecological organizations, and private persons.

OCR for page 59
The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop TECHNICAL AND FINANCIAL PROBLEMS In spite of the foregoing optimism, NGOs do not completely use the advantages of the Internet. The main reasons are technical and financial problems. Many movements and organizations do not have direct access to the Internet. In big cities they can find Internet providers. If a group of enthusiasts lives in a little town or village, it is rather difficult to find a provider. Financial problems are difficult, as the quantity of grants from foreign funds has rapidly decreased in recent years. For many public organizations, searching for money to pay for access to computer networks has become a serious obstacle. As a rule, NGOs try either to find allies in research institutes and colleges, which receive special funds for electronic communication facilities, or appeal to businessmen. Some of them try to find grants. In this case they are interested in updated databases of funding sources located at the ecological server Ecoline (http://cci.glasnet.ru). Let us take some examples of collaboration between NGOs in Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union. The organization Children of the Baltic offers children’s groups without Internet access the opportunity to use its website to publicize their activities. In Crimea, the Institute of Biology of the Southern Seas of the Ukraine Academy of Science provides opportunities for the public to use its Internet server at low cost. According to its director, providing access by the general public, and especially by NGOs, to world informational resources is one of the tasks of the scientists and administration of the institute. Information should be interesting, systematic, and routinely updated. It is necessary to choose a list of connections and references to other pages devoted to the same topic. In its turn, this step is connected with new expenses. One more problem is to find proper specialists. As a rule, the majority of public organization participants are not trained to work on the Internet. Many are not experienced in journalism. If nobody is ready to undertake this work on a voluntary basis, the organization needs money for the necessary specialists. As a result, many organizations do not think about the recipients and include random names into their lists of addresses. Whiles preparing the material, it seems not too difficult to think about the following: Whether the information would be interesting to the receiver. Whether the facts are reported briefly. Whether the report includes contact information and how to subscribe. Whether there is an apology for possible duplication.

OCR for page 59
The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop RESULTS Only joint efforts of NGOs can solve technical and financial problems. In order to realize the potential impact of NGOs, collaboration is necessary. Public movements can improve their effectiveness in sustainable development activity. The informational level of every NGO participant can increase due to new possibilities of obtaining information. The Internet already promotes on-line distribution of information concerning public movements, their active workers, and the projects they suggest.